Archive for April, 2012

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This is a comment I put on a thread on www.enworld.org

Money was a market creation, being derived from bartering; traders determined that certain commodities could be easily traded with anyone. A pig farmer didn’t have to find a dentist that liked pork in order to get a root canal; he could trade his pig for a quantity of silver or gold, then take the metal and trade it for other things. Governments alway managed to gain legal control of the money supply, which they eventually devalued to benefit themselves (an inflated money supply–whether one is talking coins that have been diluted with less valuable metals, or an increase in printed paper money–always passes through the government’s hands first. It’s a way for the government to spend without having to borrow or raise taxes). Money whose purchasing power has not been diluted so much tends to be more valuable than money that has. A nation in war tends to inflate its currency, so if you are running a scenario in which a nation is at war, expect to have that nation’s money lose value compared to a nation at peace, even if it is gold coin (the king, of course, will have his coiners put a little copper in those “gold” coins, so he can pay his soldiers for another month). Now, while this was generally true, there were exceptions. English silver coins appeared to maintain their value throughout the Hundred Years’ War, if I remember correctly. The English nobility tended to wield more influence over the King, especially over his ability to tax and spend, so that may account for English coin holding its value better.

History of money and banking – MisesWiki

Banks, in the modern sense of the word, didn’t of course exist in Medieval times. “Usury”, or the charging of interest on loans, was forbidden by both the Christian and Muslim faiths. Jewish folk could charge interest on any money loaned to a non-Jew; when one couples this with the fact that many governments passed laws that forbade Jews from working in any sort of “regular” trade, one understands why the term “Jewish Banker” came about.

The practice of fractional-reserve banking (which describes our modern banking system), as I understand it, developed in England within the goldsmithing industry (although apparently Chinese merchants also figured it out; see the above link). Wealthy individuals would deposit their excess gold with a goldsmith, who presumably had the means to protect it from theft. The goldsmiths would give receipts on the gold deposited, and the receipts would circulate as money, because one could always go back to the goldsmith and turn in the receipt for actual gold. Since it was rare that all depositors attempted to withdraw all their gold at the same time, the goldsmiths began issuing receipts for gold they didn’t actually have. Imagine borrowing your neighbor’s car while he’s on vacation, and renting it out to people for the couple of weeks or so that he is gone. It’s 100% profit for you; since you didn’t have to put any money into actually acquiring ownership of the car in question.

I feel the need to add that the “banking” in medieval times was in large part conducted by the Knights Templar. A king or noble going on a crusade would “lend” his land to the Templars, who in turn would finance his expedition. The KT would reap all profits while the noble was away, or for a certain number of years. The monastaries of the KT were strongly protected, and so a good place to deposit valuables.

I had not thought of this before, (and it’s kind of off-topic) but the fortress of a D&D order of paladins would be a natural place for anyone to store valuables, since they are lawful good (and are thus unlikely to steal the valuables themselves), can detect evil (and so can divine is someone is possibly a thief) and are powerful fighters (to the pain!) that can defend said valuables.

Two adventure hooks: 1. A valuable hoozit was stolen from the Order of the Most Radiant Heart; as a member of said order, your team’s paladin has a natural desire to recover it and keep the Order’s good name in tact.
2. Your team is hired to steal a valuable hoozit from the Order of the Most Radiant Heart. Your paladin’s not going to be happy with this mission…

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